SINCE their return to the top flight two seasons ago, Dundee have survived comfortably in the Scottish Premiership, finishing 6th and 8th respectively thanks largely to the goals of Greg Stewart and Kane Hemmings.
Paul Hartley even turned down the chance to replace Ole Gunnar Solksjaer at Cardiff two years ago to focus on establishing the Dens Park side in the top flight.
However, it looks as though already that this season could be their most challenging yet to stay in the division. Out of the League Cup in the group stages, thanks to embarrassing defeats to East Fife (on penalties) and Peterhead, losing both Stewart and Hemmings to Birmingham and Oxford respectively and no League wins since their opening day win at Ross County, leaving them languishing three points adrift at the bottom of the table.
Wednesday’s timid 2-0 home defeat to fellow strugglers Partick Thistle, who themselves hadn’t won since the opening weekend before their fine performance at Dens Park, means it’s now six defeats in a row for Hartley’s men, who are now three points adrift at the foot of the table.
So what has gone wrong for Paul Hartley and Dundee?
The most telling factor is the loss of Stewart and Hemmings. Both scored a combined 37 goals last season and were nominated for the SPFA Player of the Year, as well as being included in the team of the season.
To lose one was bad enough but losing both at the same time has taken a huge chunk of goals out of the team, where nobody has stepped up to the plate.
Faissal El Bakhtaoui has found the step up from League One to Premiership a difficult one, Rory Loy hasn’t looked comfortable in the top flight whilst others simply haven’t stepped up to the plate.
Whilst the Dark Blues are struggling for goals at one end, they are also finding it difficult keeping the opposition at bay having conceded 18 goals in 11 League games this season.
In Scott Bain, they have one of the Leagues better goalkeepers but he is getting little protection in front of him during the clubs slump.
When your attack and defence are both struggling, it’s a recipe for disaster and Dundee will need to find some new ingredients to produce a winning formula quickly if they are to pull away from the foot of the table.
Saturday’s match away to Hamilton is a game they’ll be looking to ending that winless run and provide a platform to build on for the rest of the season.
It won’t be easy on that plastic pitch against an Accies side boosted by their surprise midweek victory over Aberdeen at New Douglas Park (sorry but I can’t bring myself to say the sponsored name of the ground, Superseal Stadium sounds like an Aqua attraction when you go abroad).
There are some decent players at Dundee with the likes of Bain, Darren O’Dea, Kevin Holt, Mark O’Hara and Tom Hateley, who could all prove pivotal in their bid to survive the dreaded drop.
However, Paul Hartley will need to find a way to get the best out his squad and stop his side falling further behind at the foot of the table, and save his job in the process which will come under scrutiny the longer his side continue this horrendous run.
Five months ago, Dundee celebrated victory over their city rivals that relegated the Tannadice side.
If they don’t halt the slide they’re on just now, they could very easily head the same way as United and see the Dundee Derby headline the Championship and not be one of the more eagerly awaited fixtures in Scotland’s top flight.